Anti-semitism and Sartre
In Sartre's Anti-Semite and Jew, he makes reference to the notion that anti-Semitism arises not against individual Jews, but against the " idea of the Jew." That is to say that the Jew is recognized only as a member of a group associated with fear and disgust, not as an individual capable of being anything but the stereotype of the Jew. I agree with Sartre's theory as I have seen first hand the disgust associated with being Jewish. The Jew is judged not by his action or words but simply by the fact that he is a Jew, and the preconceived idea of what this means.
As discussed in class, Jews have been used as scapegoats throughout history. They have been blamed for countless economical and social problems simply because of the predisposition towards anti-Semitism that most have. To understand this predisposition is easy. It has come from years of unwillingness to assimilate by the Jews. Because of this unwillingness, the Jews have come to be recognized as different and therefore bad, because, as discussed in class, most identify easiest with what is different with the automatic assumption that it is bad. I think another reason for this assumption is the fact that it is easier to judge people than to understand them, as we can clearly see gentiles have done continuously throughout history to the Jews.
Consequently, throughout history, the anti-Semite has come to adopt an "idea of the Jew", of his nature, and of his role in society. As Sartre explains, "the Jew whom the anti-Semite wishes to lay hands upon is not a schematic being defined solely by his function, as under administrative law; or by status or acts, as under the Code. He is a Jew, the son of a Jew, recognizable by his physique, by the colour of his hair, by his clothing perhaps, and, so they say, by his character." To the anti-Semite, the Jew's character is oily, tactless, intriguing, selfish and greedy. He believes that all Jews are this way, and therefore treats them all the same, with hatred and repulsion. While a Jew might be a successful business man, a doctor, lawyer, or teacher etc. he is also a Jew, and that is all he is recognized for in the eyes of the anti-Semite.
Furthermore, Sartre argues that "if the Jew did not exist, the Anti-Semite would invent him." This is self explanatory by the fact that Jews have been used as scapegoats and will continuously be used as such in the future. Jews provide an escape for the anti-Semite. Usually, the anti-Semite belongs to the lower-middleclass, and when compared to the stereotype of the successful Jew he comes upshort. The anti-Semite justifies his shortcomings, usually intelligence and money,or lack there of, by saying that these things are "Jewish", and therefore bad, puttinghimself in a position where he doesn't want these things. However, as Sartre notes,"if the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him" by choosing anotheravailable, stigmatized minority. I think this is Sartre's most important and relevantpoint. It proves, beyond a doubt, that it is not the Jew that the anti-Semite hates, itis the "idea of the Jew", however, ironically, it seems that the anti-Semite alsoneeds the Jew upon which to blame his shortcomings, he needs to use the Jew andhis stereotype as a scapegoat
In conclusion, I completely agree with Sartre's notion that anti-Semitism arises against the "idea of the Jew", not against individual Jews. It is evident that for the anti-Semite, the Jew is merely a stereotype developed over centuries, someone upon whom to place the blame. I have seen first hand the emphasis placed on being a Jew instead of a person who is of Jewish faith, and therefore I am in total agreement with Sartre.